I’ve taught my children many, many things in my decade of parenting, but the lessons they’ve taught me are far greater and more valuable than I ever expected. In a bizarre twist, it turns out that my children have, indeed, been my greatest teachers in life. I knew it was my honor to raise them, but what I didn’t know was just how much they’d raise me (or at least inspire me to rise).
Lesson One: How to Love Unconditionally
I suppose, like them, I was born knowing how to do this, but somewhere along the way, I learned to love with conditions, or more specifically, to show love with conditions. For me, it took having a child to see what real, unconditional love looks like, and that’s the kind of love I’m now striving to give back to them. The pure love they give to me is not based on my performance as a mother, but on the simple, sweet fact that I am their mother. That’s the love I want to return – a love not based on actions, accomplishments, or attitudes, but given purely because of who they are.
Lesson Two: Grudges are Ridiculous
I’ve been known to hold a grudge. There have been some things that people have done to me that have just been hard for me to let go of. It’s hard to see past the hurt. Not for children, though. My kids can be in an argument at 10 am and by 10:04, the whole thing is forgiven and forgotten. I see the freedom in letting go through watching my children, and I’m working toward being more like them.
Lesson Three: The World is Full of Wonder
This is another one of those beautiful lessons long forgotten until I had children. The amazement of a butterfly fluttering about, the joy of blowing bubbles and watching them being carried away by the wind, the beauty of clouds and their many fascinating shapes – the world is a wonderful place with so much to discover, even in our own backyards. Seeing once more through the eyes of a child is one of the greatest gifts of parenthood.
Lesson Four: Slower is Better
Our adult schedules can get ridiculously hectic. Even when our physical responsibilities are done, our minds rarely stop racing. It often seems to me like the world is whirring by my head and I just can’t keep up, but my children have taught me the value of slowing down. Not only do children live at a slower pace, taking their sweet time to get out the door when we needed to be somewhere 5 minutes ago, but just the fact that I see them growing so quickly has made me purposefully slow down and be present. Plus, when you’re blasting off into outer space on a super important mission with a 7-year-old, tomorrow’s to-do list just has to wait.
Lesson Five: There is Always Joy
Every day brings something to be excited about if we choose to look for the joy. My sons see joy in the rain puddles where my adult eyes see the forthcoming pile of wet laundry. They usually see joy where I see messes, so I’m learning to look for the joy in the messes, too. It’s often found in the piles of Lego bricks or the splattering of paint on the kitchen table that missed the paper. It’s found in riding a scooter into the wind or petting the soft fur of an orange kitten. Most recently for me, it was found in waking up on a summer morning with two long, gangly kids in my bed, one asleep with his arm thrown over his brother, and the gratitude washed over me like a warm wave because I realized that this – every single day I get to spend with them, my greatest teachers – is joy.